The following story may or may not be true.
Once upon a time, there was a pregnant woman. She was in her early 30s because she was fat and ugly and no man wanted her. Until he came along. His first wife had cheated on him, and that made him very angry. So he chose the fat and ugly girl for his second wife because he knew she’d never cheat on him. No one would have her. She’d be happy – no, ecstatic – just to have a man, and she’d never complain and never cheat and she’d stay home and happily do the housework and the grocery shopping and have sons for him, leaving him free to go out to the topless bars and stay out with his friends and still have fun. A mutually beneficial relationship for them both.
He paid just enough attention to her that she ended up pregnant. But he didn’t like fat girls. And since she was pregnant, he declared, she would get even fatter, so he had an excuse to ignore her. After all, his job was finished. He shouldn’t have to do anything he didn’t want to do.
But she tried anyway. She tried to get him involved. She knew it was all a trade-off, but some part of her kept hoping it was real. He didn’t want to go to the doctor with her. He didn’t want to help set up the nursery. It was all her job. Why should he help? Meanwhile he bragged to all his friends that he was going to be a father. Hey, he did his part, why shouldn’t he get credit? He paid the rent, didn’t he? He came home more often than not, didn’t he? That made him a good man. He should not be required to mess with the nit-picky little monotonies of life if he didn’t want to.
One day, the woman found out she was going to have a sonogram. She was excited. She would get to see her baby. She thought for sure he’d want to come. He seemed happy to be a father. Wouldn’t he – ?
She argued with him, trying every reason she could think of, but he refused to give in. This was not his job, either. Going to the doctor was her job, not his. He was not going with her. The end. Besides, she was so fat, it wouldn’t be fun to go anywhere with her.
Finally she gave up. She had to go to the grocery store before he complained about the lack of food in the apartment, so she threw on yesterday’s dress and left. Her hair was dirty, her face still red from crying, but who cared. Nothing much mattered.
Because he always complained about how much she spent, she went first to an outlet store that sold day-old bread for lower prices than the grocery store. She could get bread and his favorite cookies there, cheaper – not that he cared. He’d find something to complain about, no matter what she did.
Then a man came into the store. She noticed him looking at her. He would have something rude to say, too. Why did they always have to do that? She knew she was a mess. She knew she was fat. She knew she wasn’t pretty. She hadn’t even combed her hair. Why did men always have to point out what she already knew?
She stayed as far away from the man as she could, hoping he’d leave without speaking to her. He glanced her way several times, making her cringe. It just wasn’t fair. Didn’t she have enough to deal with?
Finally the man went to the cashier and left the store. What a relief. She picked out the rest of what she needed and went to pay.
The cashier asked her a question. “Did you see the man that was in here?”
“Yeah.” She kept her head down. She really didn’t feel like talking to anyone.
“He said he wanted to speak to you but he was afraid to approach you,” the cashier said.
She looked up, suspicious. Now strangers were insulting her to more strangers? After she thought she’d gotten away safely this time, she had to hear about it anyway.
The cashier went on. “He told me he thought pregnant women were so beautiful, and he wanted to tell you how beautiful you were, but he didn’t want to scare you, being a stranger and all.”
She said nothing more to the cashier. She left the store in silence. What could she say? A stranger thought she was beautiful. Even with dirty hair and a rumpled dress and a red face. How could that be? Her husband was supposed to care about her, but he didn’t. A stranger wasn’t supposed to have anything to do with her, but he did.
It didn’t make any sense.
I’ve no idea what the point of this story is. It poses a contrast to the first one, for sure. Not all men find it obligatory to insult women. A compliment from one of those #NotAllMen can be flattering.
But then again, why do men find it necessary to comment on the way women look at all? It can be just as annoying to be told you’re beautiful, especially by a stranger. So you approve of the way I look. Oh, goody. Now I can be happy. You don’t like the way I look? Fine, I’ll go home and cry my eyes out. I’ll go home and kill myself because you don’t like me.
Why should my life depend on what someone else says about me? It was nice of the stranger to tell the cashier that the woman in the story was beautiful. But compliments are… well, complimentary. Not compulsory. They are extra little niceties, like panties on a lamb chop, and they should never be mistaken for the main course. We cannot exist on compliments, and we should not even try. As someone once said (was it Rita Mae Brown?): “You still have to get up in the morning, and what are you going to do with the rest of the day?”
(Please comment if you can identify the source of the quote.)